If you’ve recently found out that your partner’s having an affair, you’ll undoubtedly be experiencing a whole range of emotions such as shock, anger and upset. And if you’ve told any of your family or close friends, they’ll all have their own view and be outraged on your behalf. Their initial reaction will probably be to tell you to leave as they don’t want to see you getting hurt again.
But in reality, you never really know how you’ll feel in a situation until you experience it yourself. I know that was certainly true for me when I went through my divorce.
So, does an affair HAVE to mean the end?
A survey conducted by Relate found that only 33% of the general public thought a relationship could survive an affair – whilst a staggering 94% of Relate counsellors thought it could. They even believed it could potentially thrive after it.
An affair is often a symptom of an issue with your relationship such as the lack of communication or intimacy, constant arguing or building resentment. You may have grown apart or lost yourselves in the grind of everyday life and not paid enough attention to each other. The affair’s the outcome of the issues.
In some cases, it could be that your partner’s been feeling dissatisfied for some time. The affair is the recognition for them that the relationship is really over. They may have expressed their dissatisfaction to you at some point, but for whatever reason nothing’s changed. They’ve started to get resentful and begun doing more activities on their own.
In this instance there’s no relationship left to save and the affair is the outcome of that. It can often mean that you’re at different stages emotionally in the breakup. Your partner has already left emotionally, but you’re left trying to catch up feeling shocked, angry and hurt.
A wake-up call
However, an affair can also be a wake-up call. Although the relationship is in trouble - with effort and commitment from both of you - it could actually be saved. To do this will take some soul searching so you can both understand what the issues are and your part to play in that. It can be an opportunity to reset the relationship and start again with a deeper understanding of each other.
Obviously moving on from an affair as a couple requires forgiveness – not just of the affair - but of each other for what wasn’t working in the relationship. Both of you have to be totally committed to saving the relationship and making it work. I’d always encourage you to seek professional help, if possible, to guide you through the difficult discussions between you, which are inevitable.
What would you be giving up?
Before you decide whether to leave the relationship you need the time and space to consider what you’d be leaving behind and if that’s worth saving. Despite what’s happened - do you still love each other? What would it mean for you financially and practically if you separated? Can the trust be rebuilt between you? A divorce coach can help you work through these questions to help you gain clarity on what you want for your future.
Having children together is obviously another consideration. But staying together for the the sake of the children is generally not a good idea. They are more perceptive than we think and can pick up on tensions and resentment at home. It’s often better for them to have two happy parents who are separated, rather than both parents unhappy at home.
Moving forward together after an affair will require the resetting of boundaries, particularly in the short term. It might be that the partner who had the affair has to be more open and ok with being questioned and giving access to emails and social media accounts etc. This is all part of the process of rebuilding the trust. Think about what it would take to rebuild the trust between you.
It can be also be really useful to agree how you’ll speak to each other and behave towards each other going forward, especially if this was one of the issues.
There’s no right or wrong answer on whether you should leave or stay after an affair. Every relationship is different and ultimately you need to do what’s right for you. An affair doesn't have to be the end. Moving on from it won't be easy and to do so successfully will take a lot of time, effort and commitment from both of you.
If you decide to leave - know that it's still possible to have an amazing future - even though it's different from what you had originally planned. If you decide to stay - make sure you're doing so for the right reasons - not because you're scared of being on your own.
If you’re a friend or family of someone whose partner’s had an affair, then try not to judge. Instead offer them the support they’ll need to move forward, however they decide.
If you’ve discovered your partner has had an affair and you don’t know what to do or don’t have anyone objective to talk to, then get in touch at www.sarah-woodward.com and we can discuss how I could support you.
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